By Kyle Daubs

Three Charleston wrestlers have high hopes this season with existing experience in Trojan wrestling. 

For first-year head coach Michael Stanley, it might be unorthodox that his top three experienced wrestlers are girls.  However, Stanley echoes what all of us are thinking. 

It’s inspiring. 

Senior Maddie Bryant, junior Alaynia Bryant, and sophomore Mackensie Williams return with experience from last season and have wrestled through youth programs and high school programs. All three are currently getting college recognition, and all three could make a run for state for the first time in girls wrestling history. Both Bryant sisters are former Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association state qualifiers at the F/S level.

“It is very exciting for all three of these girls returning, that for the first time the IHSA will be running a state series specifically for girls,” said Stanley. “Being able to display their abilities and measure themselves against a field of all female wrestlers at the end of the season, I believe, will only widen the attention that Maddie and Alaynia are seeing, and will bring that attention upon Mackensie eventually as well.”

Maddie Bryant will wrestle at 113 pounds, while Alynia will wrestle at 120 pounds. Williams will wrestle 152 pounds. 

“Mackensie was new to the sport last year and, being a freshman at such a high weight (152), and wrestling mostly guys was a challenge for her that resulted in little success as far as wins and losses,” said Stanley. “That said, she is a very strong and naturally gifted athlete and is committed to improving all aspects of her wrestling every day in the practice room. It is inspiring to watch her attitude, effort, and growth. We are hoping to get her matched up against more female athletes this year in dual meets to where she won’t be at that natural strength disadvantage she sees against male wrestlers at those middleweights. I believe against other female wrestlers she is going to see her efforts realized with plenty of victories on the mat.”

Stanley said that this is the first time he has seen many of his wrestlers because last season was in the spring instead of the normal winter season, along with the health concerns due to COVID-19. 

Junior Alec Sellers (160), senior Josh Wiley (170), junior Alex Stout (275), and junior Wyatt Kennedy (275) all have experience wrestling from their freshman or sophomore years. Freshmen Trejion Couch (106), Steven Hanson (126) Marcellx Boling (220), and Yeshua O’Brien (220), junior Scott Fain (138), and senior Josiah Vengara (195) all have experience in youth wrestling. 

“Regardless of experience, I am very excited about everything I am seeing in the room at the moment,” said Stanley. “Just to be up from four to 17 wrestlers on the official roster from last year to this year is very exciting in itself, but even more exciting is that every one of these students is ready to work and ready to do whatever is asked of them every time they step in the room. They are all interested in improving their skills, are all very coachable and eager to listen, learn, and push themselves, and are all coming in with positive attitudes and are having fun.” 

Stanley said as far as individual and team goals, they will be assessed as the year goes on, but he is hopeful to see improvement from each wrestler given the youth on the team. 

“With only three seniors, this team has plenty of time to improve their skills and find success on both individual and team levels if they stick with the sport, and I believe that every one of them has the potential to do so,” said Stanley. “For this season, it is hard to say what kind of success I expect as far as wins and losses, individually or as a group, but I do know that if they keep walking into the wrestling room, that with the effort I am seeing from them, they will each be better tomorrow than they were today, and that is all I can ask.”

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